South West Wales

Withybush paediatric unit set to have hours temporarily cut

PACU Withybush Hospital Image copyright Hywel Dda University Health Board
Image caption The PACU unit provides the majority of hospital care for children in Pembrokeshire

There are plans to temporarily reduce the opening hours of a children's care unit in Pembrokeshire.

Hywel Dda University Health Board wants to reduce the hours of the paediatric ambulatory care unit (PACU) at Withybush Hospital by four hours a day.

It is making a recommendation in response to there being "fewer consultant paediatricians available."

The plans will be discussed at a full health board meeting on 24 November.

The PACU cares for children who experience sudden pain, high temperatures, sickness, infections, or requirements for dressings, blood tests, x-rays or scans.

If the recommendation is accepted, it would mean the PACU would be open daily from 10:00 to 1800 GMT instead of 10:00 to 22:00.

Sick children who require assessment after the new closing time would be referred or transferred by ambulance to Glangwili Hospital in Carmarthen.

Image copyright Hywel Dda University Health Board

The health board said the move to reduce hours in the short term was the result of "longstanding difficulties in recruiting paediatric consultants across the UK".

This coincided with the retirement of a Pembrokeshire paediatric consultant and the maternity leave of another.

The health board said to do nothing would be a "risk."

There is also a recommendation to merge the on-call rota with the one operating in Carmarthenshire.

This means that if there was a paediatric out-of-hours emergency at Withybush Hospital, the on-call paediatric consultants would offer remote advice.

Image copyright Hywel Dda University Health Board
Image caption The PACU has a specialist play area

The health board's chief executive Steve Moore said: "It is our duty to be realistic about the availability of our consultants and to plan care around this so that it is safe, consistent and to avoid public confusion.

"Otherwise, we risk the event of having insufficient staff and having to close the unit in an unplanned and uncoordinated way, risking patient safety and public confidence."

He added that the health board's recruitment efforts are continuing.

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